Health/Safety/Hygiene - this area concerned me greatly - the safety drill was a nonsense and did not appear to me to be taken seriously. The event was planned half an hour before the first sitting dinner on the second day. Several guests left before the drill was finished, no doubt to get ready for dinner. Others appeared to be falling asleep whilst the drill was conducted in 6 languages and others just chattered amongst themselves. I dread to think of what chaos and mayhem there would have been in the eventuality of a real emergency.
There was a big outbreak of a chesty type flu on board, passengers were going down with it from quite early in the cruise. This was a particularly nasty bug, both myself and my husband were affected by it in the last few days if the cruise and two weeks on we still both have it. The speed this virus went around really opened my eyes to the importance of hygiene standards. To help reduce the spread of viruses and infection I think that there could have been better use of hand sanitizers. The ship was equipped with hand sanitizers, but not enough of them. For instance they were not located at every entrance to the restaurants. We have been on other ships where it has been obligatory to use the hand sanitizers on entering the ship from port and entering any eating area. It is my feeling that MSC were only paying lip service to any ruling that states that they must provide hand sanitizing units.
Dining - this was without doubt my biggest disappointment. The food was the worst I had encountered on any cruise ship. I was not looking for haute cuisine or fine dining just good Italian tucker, similar to what we had previously experienced on the Opera and Lirica. The food style on the Musica is not Italian; it was a multi cultural mish-mash - one night Oriental, another Spanish, another Mexican and so on all intermixed in a European fusion, for instance one night a choice was sweet and sour pork served with mashed potato. Meat was generally tough, on one occasion the waiter asked why I had not eaten the pork,I told him it was too tough and he said that I should have killed the pig first! Another time the waiter agreed with us that the steak was only fit for shoe leather. Generally speaking the food was not cooked well, it was always served tepid and with a total lack of presentation. The only thing that made going to dinner worth while was our delightful table companions who always seemed to make us laugh, usually about the food. I still have the picture in my mind of an escargot starter, it was unimaginatively called escargot in pastry and when it arrived at looked like a Cornish Pasty, only instead of the meat filling it had two lonely snails tucked in the pastry.
The service in the restaurant was also poor, although there were a few waiters who were worth their weight in gold. We found one Romanian waiter who was great and we aimed to get a table in his area for lunch and breakfast when ever we could.
A vast number of the waiting staff were new with little or no silver service experience. We were also told that some of the chefs were new - this may explain the poor food but does not excuse it.
The food in the buffet was just ok in as much that you could help yourself to exactly what you wanted, but it was always cold by the time you got it back to your table. The buffet was always busy and generally a complete bun-fight. We did not try any of the á-la-carte dining options, feeling that if the food was in general poor was it going to be any better if we paid $30 a head extra for it?
Activities & Entertainment - The entertainment team worked very hard organizing stretching exercises, aerobics and various games and demonstrations throughout the day. In the evenings there was plenty going on to cater for all musical tastes ranging from classical to rock. There were also a number of fun events, Miss Musica, a Grease evening, tropical parties on deck, etc. The shows in the theatre were not to my personal taste but a lot of people that I spoke to really enjoyed them.
Excursions - There is an excursions office on board where you can book tours. The staff have very little knowledge about the tours or the destinations that you are about to visit. On the whole the excursions were very expensive, especially in the Europe. We were familiar with most of the European ports and were happy to do our own thing. Some destinations had a hop-on hop-off bus: we always find that these tourist buses are a good way of familiarizing yourself with a new area. They often go to the same places as the excursion bus and are a fraction of the price.
The South American ports were new territory to us and we felt that we would be safer to go on the organized tour. We booked half days trips for Recife, Salvador and full day trips for Rio and Sao Paulo. The only tour worth doing was the full day in Rio which took in all the main sights (albeit in the pouring rain) - The half day tours in Recife and Salvador were poor value for money.
Disembarkation at Santos was embarkation in reverse - complete mayhem. We had to vacate our cabins at 7am. At 11am we were still waiting in one of the ships lounges to be allowed off the ship. By 11.30am we were pushing and shoving with everyone else to find our luggage, there were people trying to get from one end of the baggage hall to the other, all going in different directions struggling with cases (no trolleys). As our flight to London was not until 18.15 we had decided that it would be a good idea to book a full day Sao Paulo City tour with lunch which would terminate at Sao Paulo airport in time for us to check in for our flight home. The excursion bus did not leave the cruise terminal until almost midday, the guide told us that there would not be enough time for the tour, she would take us to a restaurant for lunch and then straight to the airport. Having paid $75 each for this excursion we will be expecting a refund from MSC.
In summary this was a 19 day repositioning cruise starting in Venice and calling in to Bari, Malta, Malaga, Funchal and Tenerife, Recife, Salvador, Rio and finishing in Santos. We were attracted by the interesting itinerary and the 6 day Atlantic crossing. Being a repositioning cruise at a good price we expected there would be some new staff joining the ship but we had no idea that it would be so many (rumor has it that it was 400+) and we did expect them to have had some basic training. It seems that the 19 day cruise was their training.
The ship although too big for my own personal taste, is elegant and beautiful and extremely comfortable.
The big let down for me was the food and service, which was just not good enough and therefore although the actual cruise was good value for money the food and service spoiled the holiday.